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Global Change: Why C.T. is Essential To the Community College Mission

And Why It Will Be Difficult to Achieve

Linda Elder, July 2000

Since the inception of the two-year college almost a hundred years ago, it has served a unique role in the fabric of American society. The community college has sometimes been hailed as the last best chance for many older "returning" students who, for whatever reason, never pursued college upon graduation from high school, and who need to find an employment niche with little time to spare. It has also been regarded as a "secure" starting point for fresh high school grads who want to "get their feet wet" before going on to four year colleges or universities.

These are undoubtedly only two among a variety of reasons why each fall approximately 5.6 million students now choose the two-year college in this country. But perhaps the greatest contribution of the community college has been its emphasis on teaching students what they will need to become competent employees upon graduation. To a large extent students enroll in two-year college programs to gain skills and abilities necessary for employment; and many, if not most, community college faculty have maintained classrooms which emphasize learning the technical skills that enable students to do just that.

Until recently, classroom structures which involve "hands on learning" with primary focus on teaching technical skills have, in general, provided specialized abilities students have needed to find gainful employment. However, as the economic structure of the world becomes more complex, as technology continues to transform itself, as the rate of change accelerates, and as we become increasingly more interdependent both at home and abroad, "training" students for job performance in narrowly defined skill areas no longer.....

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